When singers speak about breathing they often refer to their abdominal area or somewhere around their waist. Very common is also to speak about support and breathing as if they were the same thing. Aren´t they interrelated? Yes, correct, but that is not the whole picture.
Is it possible that breathing is overrated? We do sing with the whole body, definitely, but is breathing for singing really that difficult? You renew your energy on the inhale and sing on the exhale. You manage the exhalation so as not to let all air out at once. What else does breathing do for you? It opens the throat if done correctly, it prepares the body for singing. That´s inhalation. When you sing you already exhale and that´s usually where trouble starts.
In order to ”support” your singing you may get really tense and instead of using the air comfortably you hoard it or force it. Instead of keeping the pressure off your vocal cords you might mistakenly push with the air, all the while thinking you are ”supporting”. Suddenly singing gets difficult. Then, desperately seeking for more ease, you might try to sing more lightly and there goes your body connection!
The Estill teachings I have learned have also led me to think about body work simply as anchoring. The breathing part is natural and shouldn´t be such a big deal. Of course, to beginners we have to teach the basic good manner of breathing. But to more advanced students it might be useful to think of your breathing and body work separately!
Breath ”naturally” (keep your chest and posture aligned, shoulders down, relax your tummy while inhaling etc.). But then, anchor! What does that mean?
Anchor your body by using your strong back muscles, around your waist and under the arms and shoulder blades. Anchor you head and neck, too, by feeling your neck is expanding and head firmly placed between the shoulders, not forward. Look at great Wagnerian singers with their strong necks. Even lyrical voices benefit from this firmness. It helps stabilize the larynx in the throat and gives real support to the delicate structures inside. You can keep your anchoring and renew your breath. That way you stay connected all the time. It feels you are really working the body but it´s a nice, stable feeling you can learn to trust.